The Evolution of User Group Workshops

NAUUG Workshop
2012 NAUUG Workshop in Las Vegas


I’ve had a couple of questions recently regarding what the user group workshops are all about as not all User groups have the opportunity or time to present a session. So I thought I’d take a moment and explore how these came to exist.

We set aside an optional day during the North American Uniface User Group for free training. Any subject was possible just needed to fit into the time available, usually 4 to 6 hours. In years past, we would provide PC’s, then asked participants to bring their own laptops that had the unfortunate effect of introducing an extra install period which at times was really stressful for both the customers and us.

To solve that we adopted a canned service provided by CloudShare where we can setup an entire environment in the cloud, just bring a network enabled laptop with browser and away you go, perfect!

But what can you fit into 6 hours was always the issue. With the Uniface release cycles at the end of the year which coincidentally is about the same time as the user group cycle begins. Plus the lab and product management graciously giving us earlier access to code, sometimes even prototype code, we came up with the idea to use this time to showcase new functionality, and what we now call the workshop was born.

These workshops give customers the opportunity to peek behind the curtain at what is coming, but do it in a controlled fashion.

It does have its downside, do we assume everyone is a developer, and even if we do they won’t know the new stuff, so we had to resort to creating detailed documents on what to do and how to do it. This is pre-release, even the documentation is work-in-progress.

We even pre-built a few things to remove the boring but necessary bits. But never the less we ended up with a fairly large instruction manual of steps which at times seems very incongruous and does little to explain what is going on.

What can I say? The exercise document format is also a work-in-progress and if someone has a better delivery idea please let us know.

Last point, the workshop we feel is an opportunity for both customers and us to experience using new features and encourage ideas on what parts have the potential to improve their systems and in doing so encourage customers to consider upgrading to newer versions of Uniface.

That last point seems to be working because Igor received comments on the new controls like “the update to the tab control was long overdue” from Charles of JDA, and I could overhear ideas from the Cayenta group on how they could use the new HTML5 container to get some custom effects.

There was even a little Easter egg in the workshop showing some additional options using the split bars. One customer comment was that this alone justified coming to the user group as he had been trying for some time to do just that.

After last month’s NAUUG conference in Las Vegas we are reviewing feedback. In the next Blog I’d like to share those comments on the workshop and ask for input on how we can improve the workshop next year.

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